What is an "Environmentalist"?


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Social climber
The Deli
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 6, 2005 - 12:38am PT
A comment made by the Fet on the ‘Aliens’ thread got me thinking…

What is an “environmentalist”?

Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

If yes, why, and for what reasons?

If no, why, and for what reasons?

Do you agree with the following definitions of environmentalism and environment?

From Merriam-Webster Online:

Main Entry: en·vi·ron·men·tal·ism
Pronunciation: -"vI-r&(n)-'men-t&l-"i-z&m, -"vI(-&)r(n)-
Function: noun
1 : a theory that views environment rather than heredity as the important factor in the development and especially the cultural and intellectual development of an individual or group
2 : advocacy of the preservation or improvement of the natural environment; especially : the movement to control pollution

Main Entry: en·vi·ron·ment
Pronunciation: in-'vI-r&(n)-m&nt, -'vI(-&)r(n)-
Function: noun
1 : the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded
2 a : the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival b : the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community
3 : the position or characteristic position of a linguistic element in a sequence

Oct 6, 2005 - 01:08am PT
The material environment, in which we are now living, is called maya, or illusion. Maya means "that which is not". And what is this illusion?

The illusion is that we are all trying to be lords of material nature, while actually we are under the grip of her stringent laws. When a servant artificially tries to imitate the all-powerful master, this is called illusion. In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities.

Therefore, although we are engaged in a hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her.

Gym climber
Oct 6, 2005 - 01:42am PT
OK, that's heavy.

But I still want to go climbing.

Lickskillet, AL
Oct 6, 2005 - 10:04am PT
It's not that it's 'heavy' just a bit bulky.
Supernatural naturalism comes with a certain metaphysical baggage, allowing itself to be bogged down with anthropomorphism (he/she)and in the end fails for many of the same reasons as a 'creationist' mentality: hubris and a tragically reductionist mindset.
Although both supernatural and methodological naturalism are based in the principles of science, methodoligical naturalism is constrained by that which can be observed. Providing a 'supernatural' clause only opens the door for anything that may seem logical for beings with a very limited spatial and temporal context. Applying any more than can be observed tends to slide into a religious or supernatural mindset, perhaps providing 'personal fulfillment' yet not offering much towards understanding.

Science is a thought process, the supernatural a belief system, let's be careful not to confuse the two.

Edit. Visualize me 'throwing Tsampa in the air'.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Oct 6, 2005 - 12:59pm PT
There are all kinds of shades of "Envinronmentalist" just like shades of "Liberal" "Conservative" "Religious" and "Whatnot"

But their is an obvious question of low long we can spoil the cage before we can't live in it anymore. There is a question of how much death and poisoning we can live with as a consequence of our actions in order to enjoy our lifestyle.

An environmentalist is someone who is concerned with those questions rather than just living blindly while letting the kids, and the neighbors, suffer the results when they come. Naturally, there are differences of opinions regarding how we weight the balance of our actions towards sustainability versus profit.



Bolivia, NV
Oct 6, 2005 - 01:21pm PT
One can only attempt to realize symbiosis by understanding; political labels and beliefs exist outside this framework, creating quite an inertia for the application of any such understanding achieved.
Clearly, in a dynamic system, preservation of a 'green' condition suitable for human habitation is a direct contradiction. However, the extent that we may enable ourselves this pleasure, is also, in a limited temporal sense, somewhat up to us.
Having an equal stake in this journey would seem to entice a more positive, self-deterministic outlook. We do not need anything to take the credit for this ineffable system, nor do we need anything to take the blame.
Me?, I'd like to hang around a while.
the Fet

Trad climber
Loomis, CA
Oct 6, 2005 - 01:27pm PT
Ok, here's a big dissertation, but you asked for it...

Like so many terms everyone probably has a different idea of what it actually means.

I'm an enviromentalist as it applies to #2.

2 : advocacy of the preservation or improvement of the natural environment; especially : the movement to control pollution

However I believe in conservation, not preservation and it's not just the natural environment. I studied Environmental Sciences and my wife is an Environmental Consultant so I'm pretty well versed in it.

As far as conservation over preservation; what good is nature if we can't enjoy it (anthropocentrically speaking). My personal philosophy is to do what is easy to reduce my impact. And IT IS easy to reduce your impact greatly. e.g. I throw my recycling in blue plastic bags instead of in the trash and reduce my trash by 50 to 75%. But if I'm somewhere and there's no recycling I'll toss a can in the trash instead of carrying it all the way home. Instead of a full size SUV, get a small SUV (if you really need an SUV, which a lot of climbers really do) I ride a two stroke too, but I damn well make sure I don't spill any gas when filling it, ride in appropriate areas, and I don't harass wildlife like some jackass. Some people aren't willing to do anything at all to reduce their impacts (litterers, people who crap on bivy ledges, giant SUVs that never go off road, etc.) and I can't believe people can be so selfish or ignorant.

As far as the 'natural enviroment' thing. Environmental Impact Reports used to be (1970s) more geared towards all impacts (e.g. jobs created, housing lost) but it seems to be drifting towards natural impacts only, not sure why.

One of the main reasons I'm an Environmentalist is common goods, like air and water quality. If a power plant owner can make an extra million dollars by not installing pollution control equipment what do you think he will do? It's up to the govt. to protect the common goods because otherwise the polluters have no incentive to do so. And in purely economic terms for society as a whole protecting the environment can be very beneficial. That power plant owner might make an extra million, but the health costs for people exposed to the extra pollution (cancer, etc.) might run into hundreds of millions. This is a very real situation.

As an independent moderate (in my own eyes anyway) I know where republicans get their money and who they fight for (generalizing here of course, Arnold seems to respect the environment I hope). And the actions of the Bush admin show just how far people who care more about money than anything else are willing to go at the expense of all of our environment.

The right wingers have done a great job at making it seem like protecting the environment is for the benefit of animals at the expense of humans. e.g. the spotted owl thing is a great example. Endangered species are like the canary in a coal mine, if a species is dying off it's an indicator the whole ecosystem is in trouble. The ecosystem crashes and the resulting landscape can take thousands of years to recover and is susceptable to all kinds of problems like beetle infestation, like when they burn the rainforests and they never return. Northwest Cali is down to like 5% of old growth remaining and the owls, etc. need old growth. But the logging companies want to log that remaining 5% because it's the most profitable and they make everyone think if they can't it will cost jobs, when in reality they were already shipping the mill jobs overseas and accelerating their cutting on replanted lands to unsustainable levels.

But Dingus is right, the Environmentalists come off as dirty hippies and can't articulate why it's important to protect these remaining old growth forests, etc. It seems the same with a lot of political discussions. The most visible people opposing Bush for starting an uneeded, unjustified war are far left kooks like Al Sharpton et al, advocating an immediate withdrawl from the mess we've created over there which of course will lead to an even greater mess.

The truth is one of the species who will get the most benefit from protecting the environment is humans (if we kill ourselves off the Earth will still be here). We should take the easy steps to reduce our impact (anyone who tells you these easy steps will cost economic productivity is just protecting their own interests; alternative energy/greater fuel efficiency is going to economically benefit someone, just not them) Most people who understand science agree that global warming, pollution, etc. from humans are a threat to our health, and extrapolating it out many years a threat to the capacity of the planet to sustain humans. Right now pollution is causing health problems. In 100 years global warming will cause expensive problems for our grandchildren (protecting lowlands from rising oceans, etc., actually that's happening now but it'll get far worse) and back to the Aliens thread: in thousands or millions or years what kind of planet will we have left for our posterity? What lengths will they have to go to to survive because we weren't willing to reduce our impacts enough?

Maybe what we do won't make that much of a difference, but I for one am willing to take those easy steps to reduce my impacts and leave as much limited resources available and as little pollution as possible for future generations without too greatly impacting my own life.

With that said, anyone who is opposed to uneeded bolts is an environmentalist! Hah!

Edit: as I was writing that, Karl summed it up in much fewer words in his post, good work!

Oct 6, 2005 - 01:39pm PT
As usual, Karl makes good sense.

Trad climber
the ville, colorado
Oct 6, 2005 - 01:59pm PT
Good post's Werner & DMT.As a species it's a bit arrogant for us to think we truly can change much in Earth time(6 billion years).If everybody was an enviromentalist it would ony get us an additional 10,000 years or so.Not much in the large scope of things.Once we reach our carrying capacity a plague will break out & put us back to the stone age at best.I'm into the enviroment for selfish reasons. I also beleive that an old growth tree is really young hence you can log them in the proper manner.rg
Don't let go

Trad climber
Yorba Linda, CA
Oct 7, 2005 - 12:25am PT
If you drive a car, make a fire, or even digest food, you are ultimately a part of global warming. We will die sooner with bite of food that you consume. Therefore I say that no one is an enviromentalist, even those of you that only eat fruit that has naturally fallen from a tree.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Jul 29, 2007 - 02:34pm PT

Here is an Environmentalist.

Jul 29, 2007 - 03:23pm PT
an environmentalist is a certain species at the high end of the consumptive class

the Hooterville World-Guardian
Jul 29, 2007 - 07:00pm PT
i remember when i got my first chainsaw.....

Jul 29, 2007 - 07:37pm PT
Saw a guy in Alaska wearing a t-shirt that said "The only good tree is a stump, F*ck the Sierra Club"
My Name Is Drew

Big Wall climber
Dogtown, LosAngeles, CA.
Jul 29, 2007 - 09:19pm PT
(Bobcat Goldthwait responding to a heckler)
"God had the blueprints for you and he was like
'What do you think about the brain?
Brain? No brain? No brain? no brain.
there ya go, good luck'.
The birth of another Republican!"

An "enviromentalist" is someone who cares about a bit more than their petty, infinitesimally small, short existence on this planet.
You know.
Not preoccupied exclusively with "their stomachs and sex" (Frank Zappa).

Really sweet photo; chainsaws are all well and good if a career in juggling is what you're hoping for.
Now flamethrowers.....
you wanna talk juggling!

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
Jul 29, 2007 - 10:00pm PT
An Environmentalist: Belief System:

First and formost, respect for Mother Earth.
Clean water to drink.
Clean Rivers for sustainable fishing.
Selective logging for sustainable forests.
Clean Air humans and animals can breath without worry.
A healthy ecosystem with all systems in balance.
Sustainable fishing for a healthy ocean.

An environmentalist begins making a difference at home and votes for the choice of a healthy planet.

Not too difficult, pretty basic when you think about it.


Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Jul 29, 2007 - 10:02pm PT
As usual Karl Baba is well stated and right on. Under those terms I'm an environmentalist and proud of it. Am I pure? Hell no, but I try to lead a concious life and act deliberately in ways that minimize my impact on this earth that my kids will have to live in. Thanks Karl.

Gorge Monbiot is one of the most savvy writers I read regularly. He cuts through the normal BS we progressives camoflauge ourselves in. He's the avatar that keeps me honest. For quite a while I've been pretty uncomfortable with the concept of buying carbon offsets and the psuedo wind power purchases that are offered all over the place. Here's what he wrote about it a few days ago. You can also read it on line here: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/07/24/eco-junk/

Posted July 24, 2007
Green consumerism will not save the biosphere

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 24th July 2007

It wasn’t meant to happen like this. The climate scientists told us that our winters would become wetter and our summers drier. So I can’t claim that these floods were caused by climate change, or are even consistent with the models. But, like the ghost of Christmas yet to come, they offer us a glimpse of the possible winter world we’ll inhabit if we don’t sort ourselves out.

With rising sea levels and more winter rain (and remember that when the trees are dormant and the soils saturated there are fewer places for the rain to go) all it will take is a freshwater flood to coincide with a high spring tide and we have a formula for full-blown disaster. We have now seen how localised floods can wipe out essential services and overwhelm emergency workers. But this month’s events don’t even register beside some of the predictions now circulating in learned journals(1). Our primary political struggle must be to prevent the break-up of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. The only question now worth asking about climate change is how.

Dozens of new books appear to provide an answer: we can save the world by embracing “better, greener lifestyles”. Last week, for example, the Guardian published an extract of the new book by Sheherazade Goldsmith, who is married to the very rich environmentalist Zac, in which she teaches us “to live within nature’s limits”(2). It’s easy: just make your own bread, butter, cheese, jam, chutneys and pickles, keep a milking cow, a few pigs, goats, geese, ducks, chickens, beehives, gardens and orchards. Well, what are you waiting for?

Her book also contains plenty of useful advice, and she comes across as modest, sincere and well-informed. But of lobbying for political change, there is not a word: you can save the planet in your own kitchen – if you have endless time and plenty of land. When I was reading it on the train, another passenger asked me if he could take a look. He flicked through it for a moment then summed up the problem in seven words. “This is for people who don’t work.”

None of this would matter, if the Guardian hadn’t put her photo on the masthead last week, with the promise that she could teach us to go green. The media’s obsession with beauty, wealth and fame blights every issue it touches, but none more so than green politics. There is an inherent conflict between the aspirational lifestyle journalism which makes readers feel better about themselves and sells country kitchens and the central demand of environmentalism: that we should consume less. “None of these changes represents a sacrifice”, Sheherazade tells us. “Being more conscientious isn’t about giving up things.” But it is: if, like her, you own more than one home when others have none.

Uncomfortable as this is for both the media and its advertisers, giving things up is an essential component of going green. A section on ethical shopping in Goldsmith’s book advises us to buy organic, buy seasonal, buy local, buy sustainable, buy recycled. But it says nothing about buying less.

Green consumerism is becoming a pox on the planet. If it merely swapped the damaging goods we buy for less damaging ones, I would champion it. But two parallel markets are developing: one for unethical products and one for ethical products, and the expansion of the second does little to hinder the growth of the first. I am now drowning in a tide of ecojunk. Over the past six months, our coatpegs have become clogged with organic cotton bags, which – filled with packets of ginseng tea and jojoba oil bath salts – are now the obligatory gift at every environmental event. I have several lifetimes’ supply of ballpoint pens made with recycled paper and about half a dozen miniature solar chargers for gadgets I don’t possess.

Last week the Telegraph told its readers not to abandon the fight to save the planet. “There is still hope, and the middle classes, with their composters and eco-gadgets, will be leading the way.”(3) It made some helpful suggestions, such as a “hydrogen-powered model racing car”, which, for £74.99, comes with a solar panel, an electrolyser and a fuel cell(4). God knows what rare metals and energy-intensive processes were used to manufacture it. In the name of environmental consciousness, we have simply created new opportunities for surplus capital.

Ethical shopping is in danger of becoming another signifier of social status. I have met people who have bought solar panels and mini-wind turbines before they have insulated their lofts: partly because they love gadgets, but partly, I suspect, because everyone can then see how conscientious (and how rich) they are. We are often told that buying such products encourages us to think more widely about environmental challenges, but it is just as likely to be depoliticising. Green consumerism is another form of atomisation – a substitute for collective action. No political challenge can be met by shopping.

The middle classes rebrand their lives, congratulate themselves on going green, and carry on buying and flying as much as ever before. It is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously buys green products, and its carbon emissions continue to soar.

It is true, as the green consumerists argue, that most people find aspirational green living more attractive than dour puritanism. But it can also be alienating. I have met plenty of farm labourers and tenants who are desperate to start a small farm of their own, but have been excluded by what they call “horsiculture”: small parcels of agricultural land being bought up for pony paddocks and hobby farms. In places like Surrey and the New Forest, farmland is now fetching up to £30,000 an acre as city bonuses are used to buy organic lifestyles(5). When the new owners dress up as milkmaids then tell the excluded how to make butter, they run the risk of turning environmentalism into the whim of the elite.

Challenge the new green consumerism and you become a prig and a party pooper, the spectre at the feast, the ghost of Christmas yet to come. Against the shiny new world of organic aspirations you are forced to raise drab and boringly equitable restraints: carbon rationing, contraction and convergence, tougher building regulations, coach lanes on motorways. No colour supplement will carry an article about that. No rock star could live comfortably within his carbon ration.

But such measures, and the long hard political battle required to bring them about, are, unfortunately, required to prevent the catastrophe these floods predict, rather than merely to play at being green. Only when they have been applied does green consumerism become a substitute for current spending rather than a supplement to it. They are harder to sell, not least because they cannot be bought from mail order catalogues. Hard political choices will have to be made, and the economic elite and its spending habits must be challenged, rather than groomed and flattered. The multi-millionaires who have embraced the green agenda might suddenly discover another urgent cause.

George Monbiot has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Essex and an honorary fellowship by Cardiff University.



1. Eg James Hansen et al, 2007. Climate Change and Trace Gases. Philiosophical Transactions of the Royal Society – A. Vol 365, pp 1925-1954. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2007.2052. http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2007/2007_Hansen_etal_2.pdf

2. Sheherazade Goldsmith (Editor in chief), 2007. A Slice of Organic Life. Dorling Kindersley, London.

3. Sarah Lonsdale, 19th July 2007. Take the online test to find out your footprint. Daily Telegraph.

4. See http://shop.tangogroup.net/PDF/H-Racer%20002.pdf

5. See http://www.lawsonfairbank.co.uk/pony-paddocks.asp
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jul 30, 2007 - 12:20am PT
Thanks Malcolm, I read George myself and conincidentally had just read the eco-junk article.

Sadly, the question I often ask myself is how much to consider the selfish and limited aspects of human nature when reckoning how much environmentalism is likely to prevail in the world before the inevitable crisis happens. I figure we won't do enough about global warming until the gulf stream shuts down and freezes the crap out of England, but I'd like to be wrong. I can't believe they are rebuilding New Orleans right where it is.

When oil becomes depleted and gas is $10-$15 a gallon, we WILL drill the arctic. Few will care how much damage is done up there. Makes me wonder whether we should negotiate for the arctic to be drilled sooner with great sensitivity while we still have bargaining power. Sadly, I also think we ought to hold on to our oil reserves until we really, really need them so it's a catch 22


nick d

Trad climber
Jul 30, 2007 - 12:42am PT
Mal and Karl, I cannot get into the idea that people the world over will ever be happy accepting a lower standard of living. The real answer is a greatly reduced population. I know that for myself I require many things that are the end result of huge industrial enterprises. I take great pride in the fact that I refrain from driving much. I put gas in my truck two weeks ago and today it showed 96 miles on the trip odometer. I accomplish this by walking and bicycling a lot. I am not oblivious to the industry required to produce my tennis shoes and bicycle tires, which I consume in fairly large quantities. My two bicycles were made in the 80s, so I am getting my moneys worth out of them, but I would like new ones sometime. The mining, the chemical plants, the refineries that these kind of objects entail is staggering. Can I give them up? Probably not. No more than those in the 3rd world (that would be rural NM!) can reasonably be asked to give up things like refridgeration, or phones, etc... The only way everyone can be happy is if we all share a reasonable standard of living, and that can only be accomplished by having a much smaller world population. I don't know how this can be accomplished, but it must be our shared goal if our world is to survive in a fashion still suitable for habitation by us.


Jul 30, 2007 - 12:42am PT
the platitudes about oil and politics, oil and economics, oil and ecology -- e.g., no blood for oil, no drilling in ANWR, etc. -- are pretty tired. And the latest fashion of talking about "peak oil" overlooks the technological advances being made. It's an axiom of economic theory that as good X becomes more expensive, consumers turn to good Y (or producers begin doing R&D for Y if it doesn't exist).

There was a pretty famous bet made by an economist and an ecologist in 1980, that roughly paraphrased goes like this: The ecologist was asked to build a portfolio of metals that were thought to be scare and soon depleted (copper or silver, say). If the portfolio was more expensive in 1990 (or whatever), the economist would lose and would buy the portfolio and thus incur a financial loss. If the economist won, he would be paid off somehow (forget the details).

Well, wouldn't you know it, the economist won the bet. Why? Because as the portfolio commodities became more expensive, substitutes for those commodities were discovered (driven by profit-seeking firms). As those cheaper commodities appeared in the marketplace, the "scarce" commodities became correspondingly cheaper. Cheaper, in fact, than their price in 1980.

The same thing is happening with oil.

I consider myself "environmentally conscious." I welcome higher oil prices; higher prices are the impetus toward technological development, development that will culminate in cheaper/less environmentally damaging sources of energy. I'll go so far to say that a gallon of gas, controlled for inflation, will cost *less* in 2057 than in 2007.

Anyone care to place a friendly bet? [A soon-to-be moot bet, I know, as most of you dudes will be dead within the decade if not this year]

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